I'm having trouble with measurements. What should I check?

Each of our measurements is documented with a description and two visuals. Referencing these resolves most issues.

We are working on QA functionality that detects possible issues and brings them to the user’s attention in a way that makes sense.

In the meantime, here are some places to start looking if you’re having trouble with your measurements.

General notes

Trouser problems are almost always caused by vertical measurements that determine the room we have to construct the pants top. For example, waist to upper leg must be longer than waist to seat; otherwise there is negative room to construct the pants.

The waist measurement is an important vertical plane of reference. It doesn’t matter that much where you take it, as long as you consistently measure all vertical measurements (waist to seat, waist to hips, HPS to waist, waist to floor, …) from that same horizontal plane.

Trouble measurements

There are a few measurements we’ve noticed tend to cause problems.

Waist to armpit

The waist to armpit is a straight vertical measure, not curvilinear (following the curve of the body). It should be at the bottom edge of your armpit, only as high as a shirt would be comfortable sitting (not digging in).

Waist to armpit

High point shoulder (HPS)

HPS, which is used in several measurements, is one of the harder spots to get perfect.

Here are two approaches.

One way is to take a pencil, pen, or small dowel to find the point where your neck meets your shoulder, as well as the highest point as that’s where the pencil or dowel will touch the shoulder. If you use that method, you ideally want the tool you’re using to be parallel with the floor so you can find that high point.

High point shoulder with dowel

Another way is with a ribbon. Take a longer ribbon and put it over your neck/shoulder like a cross body bag. It helps to be able to feel where the neck ends and the shoulder begins with a small amount of pressure on the ribbon. You’ll need to determine where the shoulder seam should sit, but the ribbon will tell you where the HPS should sit once you have the shoulder seam determined as it will be where the two lines cross.

High point shoulder with riibbon

High bust

High bust is a horizontal measurement that does not need to be perfectly horizontal. It should go around your torso at the narrowest part of the upper chest, over the bust, under the arms, and across the back, but does not need to be parallel to the ground all the way around.

High bust from the side

High bust from the front

Shoulder slope

Many have had luck using an inclinometer app on a smartphone to measure shoulder slope.

Seat and hips

Sometimes people have seat and hips reversed.

In FreeSewing terms, hips is measured at the upper point of the hip bones. Some other sources call this the “high hip”.

Seat is across the fullest part of your butt. Some other sources call this the “hip”.


Where you take the waist measurements is not necessarily connected to where, for instance, a waistband is.

Try bending sideways and noting the point where your body creases. (For bonus points, put your hand on your waist and sing “I’m a little teapot”.)